We discussed earlier how Donna Brazile, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee and CNN commentator, denied the legitimacy of emails that showed her leaking a question to Hillary Clinton that would be asked verbatim at the CNN downhill event. I was highly critical of the failure of the media to investigate the claim, including confirming the receipt of the earlier emails from Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri. Brazile stuck by her false statements even after additional emails allegedly showed Brazile secretly feeding information to the Clinton campaign. Again, there was relatively little media attention to the story and CNN initially issued a remarkably weak response that it was “uncomfortable” with the new disclosures on Brazile’s actions while a CNN commentator. While CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker later called Brazile’s actions “disgusting” and others have denounced her actions and later contradictions, the DNC stuck with Brazile — even praising her post-scandal appearance before staffers (with one notable exception). Then, the declassified intelligence report directly disputed what Brazile has said. Yet media remained relatively passive and again failed to press Palmieri on the issue. Now, Brazile has admitted that she gave the questions to the Clinton campaign in a Time magazine essay. She simply says it was a “mistake” but does not address her lying to the media. Again, the coverage is quite limited and no one has asked Palmieri how she remained silent despite knowing that Brazile was lying and misleading the public. Palmieri is now a regular guest on various news outlets.
Of course, during her long denials, Brazile insisted that the story was not only false but that she was being persecuted by media even asking her such a question:
“I did not receive any questions from CNN . . . As a Christian woman I understand persecution, but I will not stand here and be persecuted because your information is totally false. Podesta’s emails were stolen. You’re so interested in talking about stolen material; you’re like a thief that wants to bring into the night the things that you found that was in the gutter.”
Brazile buries her admission in a piece in Time magazine complaining about Russian hacking. Here is her full statement:
Then in October, a subsequent release of emails revealed that among the many things I did in my role as a Democratic operative and D.N.C. Vice Chair prior to assuming the interim D.N.C. Chair position was to share potential town hall topics with the Clinton campaign. I had been working behind the scenes to add more town hall events and debates to the primary calendar, and I helped ensure those events included diverse moderators and addressed topics vital to minority communities. My job was to make all our Democratic candidates look good, and I worked closely with both campaigns to make that happen. But sending those emails was a mistake I will forever regret.
You will note that the statement omits a few things. First, she does not apologize for lying to the national media repeatedly and stating that her emails were somehow altered. Second, she does not address how she allowed other people to be fingered for the leak until it came out that it was her doing. Third, she does not address how she waited months as evidence mounted that she knowingly lied. She just says it was a mistake to reveal the questions and not to lie to the media for whom she once worked. Nevertheless, she is still being given media opportunities at Time and the media is not crying foul. Why?
The same question is relevant for the complete failure of the media to ask Palmieri how she could allow denials of this violation of campaign rules for months without revealing that she did receive the questions. She is not being asked how she could remain silent for months as Brazile lied to the media. This was during a campaign when the Sanders camp was alleging collusion and both Brazile and Palmieri did not reveal the truth that the emails were not altered as Brazile suggested. Indeed, Palmieri has not been confronted on her role or her long silence. Why?
The Brazile column is entitled “Russian DNC Narrative Played Out Exactly As They Hoped
.” No, Donna, it was much much better than anyone could have hoped because your first response and position for months was to lie to the media including the cable news network that you worked for. What hacker could have hoped for that type of windfall?
As the White House complains about slanted coverage, the failure of the media to push aggressively on the Brazile/Palmieri story is support for that view. Seriously, could you imagine if Reince Priebus was accused of violating campaign rules, lying about to the media repeatedly, continuing the lie as head of the RNC, and maintaining the lie in the face of opposing findings and reports? In this case, Brazile kept the issue in denial as Sanders sought to show collusion and unfair bias by the DNC. Then Brazile replaced Debbie Wasserman-Schultz who lost her position due to collusion with the Clinton camp against Sanders. Brazile took the job knowing that she was guilty of the same offense and misled the media as to validity of the emails. Even now, her greatest complaint appears that she primarily wishes that she was better on her security not her veracity. Brazile insists “Let me be clear: This is not just the price of politics. This is not normal. We cannot let this stand.” She is not talking about her lying or her sharing the questions with Clinton. The problem is not the content of the emails but the fact that anyone found out about them.
I have repeatedly criticized President Trump and the Administration for their attacks on the media. I believe that the media is right to aggressively pursue issues like the wiretapping allegation. However, it should also aggressively pursue stories like this one.
The Time column appears an effort to move beyond the scandal with a very limited apology. Given the subdued media coverage, she may succeed in that strategy.